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Council doesn’t plan immediate action on Chamberlayne safety report

Cars driving along the 2700 block of Chamberlayne Avenue in Richmond
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Multiple pedestrians have died in traffic collisions on Chamberlayne Avenue since 2018.

The 1.5-mile stretch is where some of the city's traffic-related deaths and injuries have occurred.

A relatively small patch of Chamberlayne Avenue is having a significant impact on Richmond's traffic-related deaths and injuries.

“This tiny bit of road is experiencing a tremendous burden,” said Andy Boenau, with Richmond’s Department of Public Works. “Twenty-one serious injuries and five people died on this corridor from 2018 to the middle of 2023.”

Boenau was speaking at a transportation committee meeting last month when he gave the results of a street safety assessment conducted by an outside consulting firm. The report focused on a stretch of Chamberlayne south of West Brookland Park Boulevard in the city’s Northside.

Boenau said 100% of the accidents in that five-year period were caused by speeding.

“None of these pedestrian crashes involved impaired drivers,” Boenau said. “That is often something that jumps to mind. Like, maybe it's the kind of thing that you can never prevent. And in this case, this is speed without the impairment.”

Referencing a speed map during his slideshow presentation, Boenau pointed out where the fatalities and injuries occurred.

“What's noteworthy, what you see in this heat map is that almost 80% of all fatal and serious injury crashes were at intersections,” he said. “As opposed to the rest of the city, [which is] about half. So, something's happening at these intersections that we needed to take a closer look at.”

Prior to the presentation, Boenau said city officials, including members of the health district, and police and fire departments, walked the entire corridor. They were joined by folks from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, as well as bike and pedestrian advocates.

“This is a multidisciplinary type of thing. This is not just a traffic study. This is not just a crash study,” said Boenau. “We realize that the bones of this city are its streets; we need healthy bones if we're going to have a healthy body.”

To address the issues, the city hired VHB to conduct a safety assessment and submit possible fixes.

“The near-term solutions are those that are relatively low cost and are already funded in many cases,” said Chris Dailey, of VHB. “Things that we can go out and do almost immediately like signs, marking some changes to traffic signals, lane usage, things of that nature.”

The city’s already received state and federal funding for some of these projects, according to VHB’s assessment.

Other near-term solutions include upgrading street lights; better infrastructure for bus riders — like benches and shelters; and banning right turns at red lights. Plus, the report calls for installing speed cameras in the area.

For longer-term solutions, the city wants to create bus-only lanes, and add more crosswalks and pedestrian hybrid beacons — lights perched on metal beams above crosswalks to alert drivers. Closing the gaps in some medians, which would prevent left turns out of driveways, is also being considered.

City Councilor Andreas Addison, who’s also on the transportation committee, told VPM News that currently, there are no plans for City Council to take action on the report. But, he said, it will “follow up on the recommendations” and look for other funding sources.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.